Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Martin's thrift store in Hudson closing 21 years of service

Every now and then, especially after a heavy rain, homeless men and women make their way into the 1,600-square-foot store in the Hudson Square shopping center. They know somebody will give them dry clothes and even let them change in the restroom.

The generosity comes without strings. And while most visitors are grateful, some ignore the sign on one wall: Thou Shalt Not Steal.

Sandra Mooney, a retired business executive who manages the St. Martin's Episcopal Church thrift shop, just sighs.

"This isn't treasure,'' she says. "Bless them and send them on their way.''

Mooney's fellow volunteers often accept less than the asking price for clothing or appliances or hundreds of other donated items because what's really important here is helping the poor — or as longtime volunteer Barbara Cyr says, "serving God.''

Mooney, 70, muses that such benevolence might have contributed to her unpleasant duty of closing the store after 21 years. Of course she knows better. Proceeds have dwindled much like the number of families in the congregation that meets further north up U.S. 19. Most of the volunteers are in their 80s and 90s, including some with severe dementia who still show up to sort hangers or use a magnifying glass to put price tags on items. Sometimes that means extra work for others, but the thrift shop is sort of a last refuge of familiarity for these longtime volunteers.

"And I would never even consider taking this away from them,'' Mooney says.

The thrift shop has helped the church support 24 charities in Pasco County and send clothing to destitute people in places like Haiti and Honduras. It collected truckloads of clothing for Hurricane Katrina victims. Every week, the church delivers a 32-gallon bag of clothes for poor kids at Hudson Elementary School.

But last August, the new priest at St. Martin's leaned on Mooney to direct a project everyone knew had to come sooner or later. The Rev. Walcott Hunter, like so many pastors challenged by a shrinking, aging congregation, looked at the numbers generated at the store. In many months, every dime went to the $2,700 rent and associated bills.

Meanwhile, no less than seven other thrift stores opened within a 10-mile area. The Rev. Hunter asked Mooney to take a mission: close the Hudson Square store and build a viable alternative.

She was a logical choice except for one thing: She didn't want to do it. In 15 years as a member of the congregation, she had hesitated to get too involved because she and husband Jack always planned trips around the country to visit family.

They had met more than 20 years ago when Sandra, a headhunter for a software company in Silicon Valley, recruited him for an engineering job. Later they realized they shared a love for sailing, got married and made plans to sail around the world. They left the San Francisco bay area in 1993 and gradually made their way to Central America and eventually to Fort Lauderdale where Sandra had a sister. In the next year, they searched for a permanent home and wound up in Hudson. After seven years aboard a 32-foot Challenger sailboat named Utopia, they now had a house but still took cruises to the Bahamas and elsewhere.

When home, they enjoyed the spirit they found at St. Martin's. "People cared for each other there,'' Mooney said. "This service to others attitude was inspiring.''

Running the thrift shop came with an immediate, unexpected challenge. The woman who had handled all the volunteer scheduling, the most difficult of all the jobs, died. Mooney had to assume the role. She also learned quickly that just because she had run businesses, this would be totally different.

"When I was in the workforce, I set the rules,'' she said. "Here it's whatever these 85-year-old people want to do because they're going to do it anyway. But they all come here for one reason: They want to help people. It has been such a humbling experience for me to be with them.''

Some of them feel melancholy about closing the store, but Mooney is excited about what's next. The store will stay open Monday through Saturday until the lease runs out May 9. After that, the church will raise money for charities by hosting what Mooney calls "family festivals.'' They will be scheduled for the second Thursday-Friday-Saturday block of each month, with the first set for June 7. Mooney envisions a fresh produce market, yard sale, music and special treats for children.

For 21 years, people have donated items for St. Martin's, dropping them off at the store or calling for pickup. Starting April 19, the repository will be the church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mooney wants to start early to get people used to the change.

Meanwhile, most everything at the store is half-price.

"It's a true going out of business sale,'' she says, standing in an attractive shirt she bought off the rack for $2.

"I never knew about thrift shops until I started here,'' she says. "I was a Nordstrom girl.''

>>if you go

Church thrift store

The St. Martin's Thrift Shoppe is in the Hudson Square shopping center at U.S. 19 and Hudson Avenue. For information, call (727) 862-9275. The website for St. Martin's Episcopal Church is stmartinshudsonfl.org.

St. Martin's thrift store in Hudson closing 21 years of service 03/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 8:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River

    Military

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  2. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]
  3. Sunstar ambulance unit overturns at Drew Street intersection in Clearwater, prompts road closures

    Accidents

    The intersection of Drew Street and Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater is closed following a crash that involved a Sunstar ambulance unit, according to the Clearwater Police Department.

    A Sunstar unit flipped in the intersection of Drew Street and Ford Harrison Avenue in Clearwater Monday morning after a car reportedly ran a red light and struck the ambulance, according to the Clearwater Police Department.
  4. Merkel spokesman: Germany still seeking stronger U.S. ties

    Nation

    BERLIN — Berlin remains committed to strong trans-Atlantic relations, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's suggestion after meetings with President Donald Trump that Europe can no longer entirely rely on the U.S. "speaks for itself," her spokesman said Monday

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during an election campaign of her Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and the Christian Social Union, CSU, in Munich, southern Germany, Sunday. Merkel is urging European Union nations to stick together in the face of new uncertainty over the United States and other challenges. [Matthias Balk/dpa via AP]
  5. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]